Yasser Arafat

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Yasser Arafat was the first President of the Palestinian National Authority and the head of the Palestinian state. Although some believe Arafat was born in Cairo, he always claimed to himself as the son of Jerusalem. Early in his youth, he was indoctrinated into Arab nationalism and began working for the Palestinian cause while still in his teens. He then moved to Kuwait, where he cofounded Fata and was elected to its central committee at its establishment. He became a full-time revolutionist at the age of 44, planning raids into Israel from their camps along the Jordan-Israel border. Later, he rose to become Chairman of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), which under his leadership transformed from a puppet movement in the hands of Arab countries to an independent nationalist organization located in Jordan. After waging a never-ending battle against Israel, he later turned to diplomacy to achieve his goals, signing the Oslo Accord in the early 1990s. Yasser Arafat, along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his efforts to bring peace to the region. He was chosen President of the Palestinian National Authority when it was founded later. Yasser Arafat remained an enigma until his death in 2004. He was adored by his supporters and despised by his adversaries.

Childhood and Adolescence

Yasser Arafat, also known as Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa, was born on August 24, 1929, most likely in Cairo. Some say he was born in his maternal uncle’s house in Jerusalem, where his mother, Zahra Abul Saud, would travel to give birth.

Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, his father, was born in Gaza City, Palestine, but later migrated to Cairo to claim his Egyptian mother’s inheritance. Despite failing to fulfill his goal, he established himself as a prosperous textile dealer in Cairo’s religiously mixed Sakakini District.

Yasser Arafat was the sixth of seven children born to his parents, and he had a younger brother named Fathi Arafat. Jamal and Mustafa, two brothers, and Inam and Khadija, two sisters, were among his older siblings.

His mother died of kidney disease when he was four years old, in 1933. His father, unable to raise his younger children alone, left him and his younger brother Fathi to live with his childless maternal uncle, Salim Abul Saud, in Jerusalem.

Yasser Arafat was returned to Cairo in 1937. His father, who was by that time married to an Egyptian woman, however, failed to provide any type of emotional support to his eight-year-old son, resulting in a distant and frequently tense relationship between them.

During his school years, he spent his summer vacations in Jerusalem, where he developed a strong bond with the city. He frequently visited the Jewish colonies in Cairo and attended their religious services in order to better understand them. Even his father’s thrashings were ineffective in stopping the behavior.

Yasser Arafat enrolled in King Fuad I University in 1944. He extended his friendship with Jews here, engaging them in discussion in order to gain a better understanding of their mental state. He also read writings by Zionist scholars such as Theodor Herzl, a proponent of Zionist migration to Palestine.

He also joined the Federation of Palestinian Students and the Egyptian Union of Students during this time. He founded a publication named The Voice of Palestine while participating in political agitations.

He eventually became affiliated with members of the Palestinian Arab nationalism party, which was led by his relatives from the Jerusalem Husseini family. By 1946, Arafat, then seventeen years old, was collecting armaments and smuggling them into Palestine, reclaiming weapons left by the Germans in the Egyptian deserts.

The British Mandate of Palestine ended on May 15, 1948, resulting in the establishment of the State of Israel and the Arab-Israeli War that followed. Arafat set out to join the conflict, but he was most likely halted along the route. According to another report, he fought in Gaza.

When he returned home in early 1949, he enrolled in the University of King Fuad I’s School of Engineering. He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1950. He was elected President of the General Union of Palestinian Students two years later, with their support, a position he held until 1956.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1956. When the Suez Crisis erupted later that year, Arafat joined the fight, fighting alongside the Egyptian Army against Israel, the United Kingdom, and France. After that, he worked in Egypt for a while before settling in Kuwait.

Al-Fatah is being formed

Yasser Arafat began his career in Kuwait working for the Ministry of Public Works before starting his own contracting enterprise. He continued to be interested in politics at the same time, donating the profits from his firm to the Palestinian cause.

Arafat created a new Palestinian nationalist organization called Fatah in 1958, along with Khalil al-Wazir, al Khalaf, and Khalid al-assan. Fatah is an acronym for ‘Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filastinivva.’ He was voted to its central committee the same year.

Fatah promoted violent action against the Israelis as both a political and an underground military force. They began guerilla warfare preparations in 1959, following the paradigm of guerrillas fighting in the Algerian War of Independence.

Arafat published ‘Filastin-naa (Our Palestine) in 1959, which advocated for an armed struggle against Israel. This was also the time that he began wearing the checkered scarf, kufiyah and took the name ‘Abu Amar’ as a fighting name.

Yasser Arafat refused to accept funds from Arab states in order to work independently without alienating them. Instead, he began soliciting money from wealthy Palestinians living overseas.

Arafat and his closest associates relocated to Syria in 1962 and began recruiting fighters for an armed attack against Israel. By that time, he had amassed sufficient financial resources to pay his warriors a fair wage.

PLO’s leader

Arab countries established the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 as an umbrella organization (PLO). While keeping in touch with it, Yasser Arafat continued to operate on his own, establishing a series of camps along the Jordan-Israel border and carrying out his first armed operation on December 31, 1964.

During the Battle of Karameh in 1968, he shot to international fame. Arafat’s prominence strengthened after his visage appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on December 13, 1968.

Fatah has now emerged as the most powerful faction inside the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), whose credibility had been tarnished by its defeat in the 1967 Six-Days War.

Arafat was elected Chairman of the PLO on February 4, 1969. He had to work closely with other constituencies, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as deal with government meddling while in this role.

By 1970, the PLO was having problems with Jordan’s King, who deployed troops to raid fedayeen camps along Jordan’s border in September, causing them to flee to Lebanon. They continued to carry out guerilla attacks from their stronghold in Lebanon until 1982.

In 1971, a splinter group known as ‘Black September’ was founded, and they began carrying out terrorist attacks in several locations. In truth, they were following Fatah’s orders while keeping a safe distance.

Because Lebanon’s central authority was weak, the PLO was able to operate more or less independently. Various branches of the organization carried out guerilla operations on Israeli targets both inside and outside the country during this time, the most prominent of which was their attack on the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

The international society condemned the Munich event, which resulted in the deaths of eleven Israeli players and three German police officers. Yasser Arafat then disbanded Black September, incorporating its members into other organizations, and chose not to attack Israeli targets on foreign land.

Diplomacy begins of Yasser

Arafat acknowledged the value of diplomacy somewhere in the early 1970s, particularly after the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. He quickly abandoned his plan to liberate all of Palestine, opting instead for an independent state made up of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Arab countries acknowledged the PLO as the only representative of the Palestinian people at a summit held in 1973-74. As a result, the group has been given permission to open offices in other nations.

Arafat gave a plenary address to the United Nations General Assembly in November 1974, sponsored by Arab countries, as a representative of an NGO.

“I have come bringing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun,” he stated in his speech. Please don’t let the olive branch slip from my grasp.”

Following the plenary, a number of European governments launched political negotiations with the PLO. Israel and the United States not only refused to communicate with the movement, continuing to label it a terrorist organization, but they also fought to crush it relentlessly. They also attempted to assassinate Arafat multiple times.

Apart from the Israelis, another of Arafat’s main foes was Syria’s, Hafiz al-Assad. Assad was able to create a schism inside the Palestinian Liberation Group (PLO) in order to reorganize it as a pro-Syrian organization. Arafat, on the other hand, was able to keep his power.

Yasser Arafat was forced to flee Lebanon in August 1982 due to an Israeli onslaught. His headquarters have since been relocated to Tunis, Tunisia. He attempted to return the following year, but was thwarted by his opposing faction, a move that bolstered his support and helped him reinforce his leadership.

The Peacemaking Process

The intifada (protest) movement, which began in December 1987 and lasted five years, brought international attention to the predicament of Palestinians in Israel, bolstering Arafat’s position. He’d altered his mind and was now willing to negotiate with Israelis.

Under Arafat’s leadership, the PLO recognized UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in November 1988. Arafat also proclaimed the formation of an independent Palestinian state, for which he was nominated as president, at the same time. In a few days, more than 25 countries had recognized the government-in-exile.

Arafat also rejected terrorism before a special United Nations session in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1988. He also stated that the PLO supports “the right of all parties involved in the Middle East crisis, including the state of Palestine, Israel, and their neighbors, to live in peace and security.”

Accord of Oslo

After months of secret discussions, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the famous Oslo Accord in September 1993. The agreement called for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as the elimination of Israeli settlements in those regions over a five-year period.

Arafat arrived in Gaza City in 1994, assuming power in the name of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and gradually establishing rule of law. His fight, however, did not end there. Many Palestinian parties, including Hamas, and many Israeli authorities continued to resist the agreement.

Arafat was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in January 1996. He continued to negotiate with foreign leaders in this role.

However, his position got increasingly harder with the killing of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the resumption of Palestinian terrorist assaults. Despite this, he worked tirelessly for the cause until his death.

Achievements & Awards

Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994, a year after the Oslo Accords were signed, “for their efforts to build peace in the Middle East.”

Personal History and Legacy

Yasser Arafat married Suha Daoud Tawil, a 27-year-old Roman Catholic, on July 17, 1990, at the age of 61. She turned to Islam after her marriage. Zahra, their only child was born on July 24, 1995.

Arafat became ill unexpectedly on October 25, 2004. He was quickly transported to Paris and admitted to the Percy military hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on November 3rd. At the age of 75, he died of a major hemorrhagic cerebrovascular accident on November 11, 2004.

His remains were sent to Cairo on November 12th, covered in the Palestinian flag, for a brief military funeral. Several heads of state were in attendance. The prayers were led by Egypt’s leading Muslim cleric, Sayed Tantawi.

Arafat requested to be buried near Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, but Israel’s authorities refused. As a result, he was buried in Ramallah, Cairo’s Mukataa. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians attended his funeral ceremonies.

On November 10, 2007, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas unveiled a mausoleum for Arafat beside his burial.

Estimated Net worth

These funds were routed straight to Arafat’s personal accounts in Tel Aviv’s Bank Leumi until 2000. Arafat’s personal wealth, according to the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief in August 2002, was in the order of US$1.3 billion.